I checked out a little about the legend Gene Simmons before I went to shoot him in a small hotel room in Soho. It was obvious that this was a man who knew about marketing himself and I was prepared for it. I expected logos, books, action figures and all other merchandise that could point us in his direction, and if needed I would negotiate a golden middle way. However, all that was in the hotel room was a safe/vault, (his new ultimate record collection comes in the form of a vault,) and nothing else. I quite liked the vault, included it in one of my setup ideas and Gene entered the room.
Gene was a taller than I expected. A handshake soon changed into a fist bump and off to the wonderful world of Gene we went. He took the Mick out of the cockney accent, with a not tooooo bad of an impression. (It’s the first time I have heard an American criticise the Brits for not pronouncing their ’t’s’.) His playlist, played off his phone, was unexpected, finishing with a tune that left us all speechless, with goosebumps and a tear in the eye. If you don’t react to Nat King Cole’s rendition of Charlie Chaplin’s song ‘Smile’ then you are cold as ice.
The shoot didn’t feel as a shoot in many ways. I didn’t control the timings as I had Gene’s attention for a couple of minutes before he’d decided he’d had enough of that setup. Don’t get me wrong, Gene was generous with his time, he just didn’t want to hang around for that infamous ‘just one more shot’. It was then for me to move around and try something else, and again he would accommodate and contribute for a couple more minutes, and so it went. 10 min chat and laughs followed by a couple of minutes photography. At the end I had to ask – ‘bathtub??’ – and in he went. No water tho, that may have been going too far, and as he was still in his rock outfit, it would leave him wet for the rest of the day. Anyway, I wasn’t really aiming to show Gene in the bath getting clean, but wanted more to create a “rock’n roll” image, giving a hint to the rock star that finds himself in the bathtub at the end of a hard night.
Gene’s team was present, hoping he wouldn’t be too vocal on certain issues and in the hope that their presence may prevent Gene from telling a few un-pc jokes. It may have restricted him a little but a Willie Nelson joke was still served on a silver platter in exchange for a promise not to publish it. The manager was urging Gene not to say it as ‘It’s a delicate climate nowadays and we all have to watch what we say.’ I can imagine that the manager has his work cut out trying to keep Gene on the right side of political correctness, but where would Rock rock be if they obeyed by the rules of Political Correctness and health and safety?